Only Koh Phi Phi Don is inhabited out of the two Phi Phi islands and it’s home to a burgeoning tourist industry and infrastructure. Attractions and activities on Phi Phi Don itself, and in the surrounding region, rely primarily on its natural beauty and physical characteristics, focusing on the sea and its inherent aesthetic appeal.
Temples, historic buildings and other obvious Thai cultural additions are decidedly absent. Lovely beaches, hikes to view points, shallow turquoise waters, fun watersports, glaringly white sand and groves of coconut palms are the real attractions on Phi Phi.
Recommended Koh Phi Phi attractions
Lo Dalam Bay
This is the centre of activity on the island with a lovely undisturbed beach that sweeps for several miles. Lots of the beachfront venues were established here prior to the Tsunami, though it now has a more open and natural appearance. There are watersports and plenty of activities on offer in the high season, but you can always escape to the fringes to enjoy a quieter atmosphere and admire the scenery of the nearly enclosed bay.
While badly hit by the 2004 Tsunami, Tonsai is still a lovely beach of Phi Phi Don and is a scenic place that has done much to rebuild itself since sustaining so much damage at the hands of that catastrophic natural disaster.
Water sports can be arranged from the sand or visitors can just enjoy a spot of sunbathing and simple relaxation. It’s slightly quieter than Lo Dalam beach (100m across the narrow spit) but is a little spoilt by the marine traffic of ferries and moored day-tripper boats.
Monkey Beach (Yong Kasem Bay)
So called because of its primate population, Monkey Beach can be accessed by canoe or longtail boat and is a fairly secluded spot. Visitors can enjoy a little tranquility, watch the sunset or just enjoy feeding bananas to the monkeys. Beware though, some of the rascals can get a little feisty!
A designated viewpoint at the centre of the island offers visitors some fairly awesome perspectives of the surroundings. Take the slightly taxing walk to the point, which is signposted, and make sure to bring your camera with you to capture the magnificence of the breathtaking panorama on offer. It’s located on the Ko Nai elevation to the east of Ton Sai and Lo Dalam, accessed by finding your way to the lanes of guesthouses at the east side of the settlement.
Koh Phi Phi Leh
This is the sister island of Phi Phi Don and, if you discount the hoards of tour groups assembling on it, it remains totally unspoilt. There are no tourists facilities, residential or otherwise, to dumb down its impressive natural beauty.
Phi Phi Leh is home to the famous Maya Bay which featured in the movie The Beach. While for some that might be their most significant reason for visiting it, others are happy to solely appreciate its stunning natural beauty. Maya Bay is the only place you can land on the island, it has a stunning beach of white sand and from here you can follow a short nature trail that leads to a secret grotto with a tidal pool from the other site of the island. Boat trips also visit other shallow bays around the island where you can swim.
Viking Cave (Tham Phaya Nak)
A short ride by longtail boat brings you to Tam Viking at Phi Phi Leh, a collection of limestone caves which are still home to sea gypsies to this day. Swiftlets also call the caves home and the nests that they create are later used for making bird’s nest soup by the human residents. The locals are able to make a living by harvesting these nests and selling them to restaurants.
Koh Phi Phi watersports and activities
Snorkelling and scuba diving
The latter activity is perhaps the more rewarding, but it’s fair to say that any opportunity to get out into the crystal clear waters of the Andaman Sea is worth pursuing. Visitors with their own snorkelling equipment can take a canoe out to areas within safe distance of the shore and observe some fascinating specimens of plant and animal life. Otherwise, scuba enthusiasts (or novices) can make use of local dive companies to enjoy supervised diving in a variety of carefully chosen locations. Dive trips from Phuket and Krabi also roll in daily to the uninhabited islands of the archipelago which have good diving.
Longtail or speedboat trips around the islands in the immediate area can be arranged easily with local tour operators and are relatively inexpensive, invariably offering lunch and drinks as part of the deal. Visit Ao Nang and Railay beaches in the Krabi area, and neighbouring Phi Phi Ley with opportunities for snorkelling in between. In fact a visit to Phi Phi Don, without venturing to Phi Phi Ley is a real shame, since the latter offers a new level of natural beauty.
With so many fantastic karst rock faces in the region, this stretch of the Andaman coast certainly is on the world climbing map. Although Krabi’s Railay Beach is considered the centre of this activities, companies also offer day trips to Phi Phi. This is your chance to see the island from viewpoints that few other visitors ever reach. There are all sorts of routes of varying grades marked out and pegged by local enthusiasts who have been exploring the area for years. Local tour agents on the island can also arrange for you to join a trip, both as an expert or beginner. Ropes, harnesses, shoes and climbing equipment are all provided and international safety practices are generally observed.
You may find it hard to imagine that anybody would want to pay good money to plummet from a rocky cliff-side into the engulfing waters below, but sure enough there are companies providing opportunities to do just that. Some slightly hazardous climbing to key jumping spots is required before those with a complete absence of vertigo can leap into the sea without harness or similar restrictions while tour operators capture the entire experience on video for posterity.
From Tonsai Beach, visitors can rent canoes or kayaks by the hour and are permitted to explore the area unaided and pretty much free of restriction. Common sense is required to avoid wandering into the longtail and speedboat paths and to make sure you don’t get stranded somewhere far out, especially after sunset. Otherwise, it’s entirely up to you where you decide to steer your vessel. You’ll have to paddle quite far out to leave Lo Dalam Bay, and Ton Sai Bay is rather crowded at times with moored boats, but the scenery of the karst formations is brilliant.
Shark watching tours
Available through local tour operators, these trips give a money back guarantee that visitors will see sharks. It’s not a claim lacking substance either since there are key locations in the area where small species of sharks assemble and those visitors prepared to don mask and snorkel and climb into the water, will indeed be treated to sights of these fearsome creatures. However, most of the sharks here are timid and keep a definite safe distance from human visitors.